WASHINGTON, July 21 (Reuters) – Donald Trump spent hours watching the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol on live TV, ignoring pleas from his children and other close advisers to urge his supporters to stop the violence, they said. testify at a congressional hearing on Thursday.
The House Selection Committee used its eighth hearing this summer to explain what members said was Trump’s refusal to act during the 187 minutes between the end of his incendiary speech at a rally calling on supporters to go to the Capitol. marching, and the release of a video telling them to go home.
“President Trump sat at his dinner table watching the attack on television as his top staff, closest advisers and family members pleaded with him to do what is expected of a US president,” Democratic Representative Elaine Luria said.
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The panel played videotaped testimony from White House aides and security personnel discussing the day’s events.
Former White House attorney Pat Cipollone was asked question after question in the taped testimony about Trump’s actions: Did he call the Secretary of Defense? The Attorney General? The head of Homeland Security? Cipollone answered “no” to every question.
“He needs to condemn this shit ASAP,” Trump’s eldest son, Don Jr., appealed to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows in a text message. “They’ll try to screw up his entire legacy with this if it gets worse.”
The attack on the Capitol, when Vice President Mike Pence met with lawmakers, resulted in several deaths, injured more than 140 police officers and delayed certification of Democratic President Joe Biden’s victory in the November 2020 election.
Representative Adam Kinzinger, one of the two Republicans on the committee, said Trump had no interest in calling off the rioters.
“The crowd reached President Trump’s goal, so of course he didn’t intervene,” Kinzinger said.
Trump remains popular among Republican voters and continues to flirt with the possibility of running for president again in 2024. But a Reuters/Ipsos poll closed on Thursday found his position among Republicans has weakened slightly since the hearings began six weeks ago. About 40% of Republicans now say they are at least partially responsible for the riots, up from 33% in a poll taken as congressional hearings got underway. read more
Trump denies wrongdoing and continues to falsely claim he lost due to widespread fraud. “These hearings are as bogus and illegal as Joe Biden — they can’t do anything without a teleprompter,” Trump spokesman Liz Harrington said in a post on his social media site Truth Social during the hearing.
OFFICERS FEARED FOR THEIR LIVES The hearing was scheduled during the evening to reach a broad television audience and was broadcast on most major US television networks. A new round of hearings will begin in September, said Republican vice chairman of the panel, Representative Liz Cheney.
Witnesses in the room were Matthew Pottinger, a deputy national security adviser under Trump, and Sarah Matthews, a deputy press secretary at his White House. Both resigned in the hours after the riots.
“If the president had wanted to make a statement and address the American people, he could have been on camera almost immediately,” Matthews testified. “If he had wanted to make a speech from the Oval Office, we could have gathered the White House press corps in minutes.”
The panel of seven Democratic and two Republican members of the House has investigated the attack over the past year, questioning more than 1,000 witnesses and collecting tens of thousands of documents.
It has used the hearings to build a case that Trump’s efforts to reverse his defeat to Biden in 2020 constitute dereliction of duty and illegal behavior far beyond normal politics.
Audio testimonials from a White House security official whose identity was shielded reinforced previous testimony that government officials knew there were multiple reports of guns in the crowd of supporters gathered for Trump’s rally speech.
The commission showed video of several White House officials that afternoon describing their dismay at seeing a Twitter message from Trump to his supporters blaming Pence for not stopping the certification.
“Trump poured gasoline on the fire,” Matthews said.
The security officer said some of Pence’s bodyguards were beginning to fear for their own lives. “There were phone calls to say goodbye to relatives,” the security officer said. “The VP detail thought this was going to get really ugly.”
The attack on the Capitol resulted in several deaths. More than 850 people have been accused of taking part in the riots, with more than 325 IOUs to date.
Near the end of the hearing, the committee showed outtakes from a video Trump made on Jan. 7, in which he elaborated on what he called “the horrific attack.” But he declined to say in the speech that the election was over.
Trump eventually left Washington on January 20 rather than attend Biden’s inauguration that day.
Asked about his assessment of the riots, Cipollone said in testimony shown Thursday that it could not be justified in any way. “It was wrong and it was tragic and it was a terrible day for this country.”
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Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Jason Lange, Doina Chiacu, Moira Warburton, and Rose Horowitch; Editing by Scott Malone and Daniel Wallis
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